Every infomercial out there claims that their product can get you in shape and have you seeing a six pack in 6 short weeks and with just 6 minutes a day. Is there any truth to this? Can fitness really be that fast and easy? If not, how long will it take before I start to see changes in my shape?
First, The Bad News
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin wanted to see if there was any truth to claims made by infomercials that stated that you can see major changes in 6 weeks. They took 25 sedentary women and put them on a grueling fitness program for six hard weeks without changing their diet. At the end of the six weeks, the women were placed in front of a panel of six judges who rated their before and afters.
At the end of six weeks of grueling workouts, the judges could detect no change in physical appearance or attractiveness!
Ugh! What The Heck?
Well, guess what? Six weeks is simply not enough to change your shape. The body simply doesn’t change that fast, at least not on the outside…
Now the Good News…
There are two levels of change that occur in the body when you commence a regimen to improve health, lose weight, and increase muscle tone…
First the neurology changes, then the physiology. In other words, the good news is you get stronger within just a few short workouts…you literally gain strength that quickly. These initial gains of strength that occur in the first few workouts have more to do with your nerves sprouting offshoots called dendrites, which then allow the muscle to contract harder and longer. This means that your brain can control your muscles better and thus exert more force. It’s increases in muscle strength, without changes in muscle size. This improvement in “neurological strength” sets the stage for growth in physiology…
Phase 2 – The Muscles Get Bigger
I had a friend who had a hair transplant; in case you don’t know what a hair transplant is, it’s a procedure where the hair from the back of the head is transplanted to the balding areas at the top of the head. I was fascinated to learn that once the hair is transplanted, it falls out and you’re as bald as you were before the procedure…
Three months after the procedure, you start to notice hair growth in the areas that were once bald, but hair growth is mild and the hairs are thin. After 6 months, however, the transplanted hair rapidly gets thicker and more full, and before you know it, you have long flowing locks and no one will realize that you ever had a transplant!
I share this story with you because muscle growth occurs at approximately the same timeline as hair transplants. Using sophisticated machinery, researchers can see changes in muscle development usually after 2 months of exercise and your friends may start to see noticeable changes after 3 months. That being said, the biggest changes won’t be visible until 6 months of working out!
Golden Nugget: Most people give up on their fitness program WAY too early! Don’t let that be you!
Success Depends on Many Things
Cursing at nature won’t make your body change any faster, you simply have to let the muscles develop at their natural rate. We’ve said in past podcasts, “We have bad news and good news for you as it pertains to body change and fitness…the bad news is change happens slowly; the good news is that change happens slowly.” In other words, it’s bad news that you won’t lose a ton of fat overnight, but it’s also good news that you won’t gain a ton of fat overnight.
Time is out of your control so just allot a minimum of 6 months to your exercise and fitness program before assessing your results.
Other things that are under your control are how often you hit the gym, how intense you work out, your diet (which can dramatically change how fast your body responds to your fitness program), and how you prioritize health within the context of your life.
Most fat loss experts recommend working out four days a week for significant changes to occur – no more than 5 days a week. Rest is as important as the exercise itself. Check out Episode 17: Exercising for Fat Loss Part I for a discussion on building an exercise program that gets results. Spoiler alert, weight training trumps cardio for weight loss.
What has your experience been with speed of body change? Have you given up on your exercise program prematurely? Does this article change your thinking about how long it takes to get in shape? Comment below!
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2004, 18(2), 255-259
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2010, 24(2), 322-331